Thursday, June 23, 2016

Humping Through The Apocalypse

There is a room in Nick Bostrom's Institute of Doom at Oxford labeled the Arkhipov Room. 

If you were born before Oct. 27, 1962, you owe Vasili Arkhipov your life. What I'm talking about is how Arkhipov declined to start WWIII during the Cuban missile crisis. Our US Navy was hammering his sub with intense sonar and practice signal depth charges, in an attempt to force it to the surface. The captains of Arkhipov's flotilla voted unanimously to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike. Arkhipov overruled them. 

If you were born after that date, thank Vasili you don't have two heads, or a heart outside your body, or that you are not some kind of tumorific retarded abomination.

(Oh, that's not strictly true, human response to various kinds of ionizing radiation is quite an impressive spectrum. Some people can shrug even lethal doses off, others are shrinking violets, killed by a sun tan). 

Radiation would have been a problem, but the more important threat of nuclear winter certainly would have produced a substantial cull. Estimates of nuclear stockpiles in 1962 put it around a total of about 740 megatons. That's more than enough for a really good solid 10 year nuclear winter. Throw in the ionizing radiation, and it's a pretty good bet that humanity would have numbers reduced by around 90%, maybe 99%, with our tech level pushed back to probably 500AD. 

The rich and the powerful, of course, would have been safely snug in their underground dens, but even they would face a bleak future once they stuck their soft little heads out, blinking stupidly in the harsh UV light, what with the ozone layer blown to Mars.

How bad, specifically? Well, the US of A enjoyed a six to one superiority in nukes over Soviet Russia. This is one of the reasons the Soviets bankrupted themselves, trying to achieve parity (which they did, briefly, in the 1970s).

The United States was armed with 203 ICBMs, 1,306 bombers with 3,104 warheads, and 144 SLBMs. Some 26,400 warheads.

The Soviets had 36 ICBMs, 138 bombers ferrying 392 warheads, 72 SLBMs. Around 3300 warheads. 

US of A: 630 megatons. Soviet Union: 103-280 megatons, depending upon whom you talk to. Anything worth bombing in the USSR would have been scraped clean to bedrock in a little under two hours. The Russian language would be "spoken only in Hell".

For the US? We would have "got our hair mussed".Noted psychopath General Curtis LeMay was correct in calling President Kennedy "a pussy", in that the US would have wiped the floor with the Soviets. But, every city on the eastern seaboard, from Boston to Miami, and as far west and North as Houston to Dallas to Cincinnati would be smoking holes in the crust of the Earth. 20-40 million Americans dead for starters. Many more once the shroud of poisons had circled the Earth.

And my fate? Interestingly enough, and unknown to us, our neighborhood had kind of banded together and come with a plan of people sharing basements. Ludicrous, yes. Even more bizarre? I found out that our neighborhood had a swingers' club, about four or five households.

Yes, all those parents swapping partners and fucking in orgies. I don't think my parents were in the club, but who knows? One does not like to think about one's parents fucking each other, let alone fucking neighbors. But, hey, Mom and Dad were young and attractive once, so who knows? 

Interestingly, every single one of the swinger households? Had a basement. Hmmm. 

Other things. Working on some more bronzes. This one is tentatively titled "You Don't Know Where That's Been".

On the assumption that my art is becoming and more and more of a storage problem, and less and less objects people desire, I am pushing the scale down some. If I continue with no sales, perhaps I will soon be making really, really, really, really tiny bronzes.

And lastly, a poem I wrote in my head on the drive to work: 

One Hundred Years Ago

Took some mustard gas 
in my morning joe
killed off my umami tastebuds
now I have no problem
with all things unsavory

back from hospital
agitated and sleepless 
Hitler scuttles about in the trenches
stabbing rats
his komeraden threaten
to throw him over the top
if he does not settle the fuck down

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Destroy Destroy.

We've an old electric kiln - Old Fred - that is now useless because power was rerouted to a new vacuum system. Which means the kiln is slated for the junk heap.

Problem: the kiln was installed when the building was built. It will not fit through doors to get it out. Measuring tape determined that if the kiln door were removed and a few jutting-out bits of metal were cut off, the kiln will fit sideways through the doors.
Old Fred

Solution: Remove the kiln door.

Problem: the kiln door weighs 350 lbs. Composed of a metal frame encasing nine-inch thick fire brick.

Solution: Remove fire brick with sledge hammer. Then cart out the brick, ease the door off it's inch-thick metal hinges.


Also, I noticed the one crucible furnace was in need of a reline. Refractory lining is badly eroded and pieces are dropping in the melt. Also, there is so much spilled metal on the bottom that the crucible will float.

Furnace ready for new liner with gas burner in background
Solution: new furnace liner kit which arrived yesterday. I took sledge hammer, crow-bar, super-destroyer rod, and broke the old furnace lining out.
Furnace liner.
Bottom of the furnace.


Boy are my arms tired today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Can A President Trump Take On The Deep State?

Short answer? No.

Longer answer? If Trump were able to bump up his IQ and expand his worldview beyond Trump, he might approach the evil genius of Richard M. Nixon, who was the last president caesar to actively control the Deep State. He'd also have to find an equally evil person like Henry Kissinger.

Between the two of them, they managed to tear out all the control wires, short out the circuit boards, blow the fuses, and concentrate control to just the two of them (and their cohort of minions). But I just can't see Trump doing any of that. Nowadays, he has to take on the military/industrial complex, plus Wall Street, plus Silicon Valley. That loosely analogous Venn diagram of the Troika, with the Deep State as intersection.

People will then say, well, what about Hillary? It's true that Hillary thinks she's Nixon, but she's not. She and Bill were bought and sold long, long ago, and - just as Bill found out Wall Street pulled his strings - Hillary will find she won't be able to cut the strings of the Troika.

Plus, the last person to try to take on the Deep State was JFK, and we all know how that turned out.

The Donald is not about to try anything like that. He'll do as he's told, a lot less eagerly than Hillary, but not as hesitant as Obama.  (And the co-caesarship of Cheney/Bush? Well, Cheney is just an appendage, the tendrils grown in so deep it is hard to tell now if a Dick Cheney ever even existed).

Oh, don't get too paranoid. The Deep State is not nearly as sinister or as modern as you think.

First of all, what is the Deep State? It is a daikaiju. Kaiju, Japanese for "strange beast" or monster, daikiju: Giant monster. The Japanese pegged us pretty well when they made Godzilla.

The Deep State is a Thing, a loosely aggregated, not always in sync, Swarm Thing. Its an It. Not a singular monolithic It, but an It just the same. It's purpose? Well, let me quote Tony Montana from Scarface:
"In this country, gotta make the money first. Then, when you get the money, you get the power. then, when you get the power, you get the women".
Well, that's almost right. But it's ass-backwards. Money isn't shit. Any idiot can make money. Money doesn't get you power. Money is honey. Power is the bees. Honey doesn't make more honey. Bees make honey. Control the bees, and you can make honey. And to control the bees, you control the queens. Queens are the power. Without women you got no self-replicating robots. Without self-replicating robots, you got no money to play with.

So, the purpose of the Deep State is to keep women, and thus men, under heel. The Deep State does it's best to keep people fearful, cynical and apathetic. Well, It has done a good job by me. I am fearful, and I am cynical. But I am not apathetic. If I were, I would write about It.

Thing about this Thing is, It has been around for so long we are used to It, even occasionally comforted by, and even profiting from It. Like farmers living next to Mount Vesuvius. So, let's drop the capitalization. That helps to be a little less fearful of it.

How old is the deep state? Well, depends upon whom you talk to.

Was WWII the dawn of the deep state? No, that was the dawn of American hubris - I think. It's true that the modern version of the deep state goes back to atomic weapons and the B-29, but the finance captured our government before then. WWI? J Pierpont Morgan and his cohort was already in control, so no.

How about post-Civil War? Getting a little closer. Certainly financiers were in control, and we could make a case for the dawn of the military/industrial complex. (Just not as specialized, for back then, captains of industry could easily swap between military and civilian purposing).

British Empire? America was, for the longest time, just the Western appendage of it.

Romans? After all, England is just Rome v3.7. But no. Sumer? Aleppo? Jericho? Gobleke Tepe?

The deep state, I'm going to argue, is at least 10,000 years old, and possibly older. What do I look for? Walls. Why, its obvious that even Gobleke Tepe, men already were quite familiar with placing stone upon stone.

You can find walls going back 20,000 years. I'll bet a lot older, but you got to go deep fishing for those artifacts. (Sea level being hundreds of feet lower than today back then).

But that's what I would look for. Walls. Funny thing about wall, they don't work. Oh, they kind of work in the short term, but you can't show the ruin of a city that didn't have a wall. And walls work both ways, for keeping things out and also for keeping things in.

Paradise, after all, means an enclosed park. Walled in. And the wall says, plenty of stuff inside for me, nothing for you. What do put in paradise? Women.  Boy, there's a reason to find a way to break walls.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I’m going to warn you right up front. I wake up in hospital beds a lot in this story. Actually only two times, but anyway, it’s not a lazy plot device. It’s just what happens.

Maybe I should get you up to speed if you are not familiar with my circumstances. I currently live in Spiral City, have lived here since 2001, give or take. Spiral City is on a peninsula fronting a bay on the western edge of the biggest continent of the planet Alterra. Alterra, and its moons Algemina and Sessus, circle a G2 star about midway inside a spiral galaxy two hundred and fifty million light years from Earth. Back on Earth, if you look up at the nighttime sky, we would be in the constellation of Hercules, if that helps. 

I rent space in one of the downtown frontier strip malls. I have a corner shop there. It's not very big, but doesn't need to be for my line of work. I'm a peranoscopist. 'Soothsayer' in the common use, 'Magic Eightball' to skeptics and snobs. 

The rest of the strip mall is owned and occupied by my landlord Aaron Willis. Yes, that Aaron Willis. Trillionaire owner of the entire freaking planet Aaron Willis. This is his world and the rest of us just live on it.


This first time before I end up in hospital? I am tutoring Aaron’s daughter Camilla about universal quantum solutions to Kerr-Godel-Everett bridges, and Jonbar hinges as one interpretation. (Jonbar hinges are a science fiction term for those forks in the road of history where things go all different).
I'm up at the chalkboard when the door opens, and the Jussinniemis walk in, followed by the Bundy boys.

"Um" I look up at the visitors, none looking particularly friendly, turn to Camilla and say "You know what? We'll continue the lesson later. I gotta take this call".

If you get the impression I might be in trouble, you are right. 

The Bundy boys I'm not too worried about. But the Jussinniemis? Brothers Aabel and Heikki, freelance muscle, are big hulking bruisers. Worst of all is little sister Johanna. Johanna is not little, but not hulking thank goodness. Actually pretty much of a stunner, blonde, tall, slim, muscular. Johanna leans forward, elbows on my counter.

"Hi Hanna" I start, "are we finally going to go out on a date?" I, as casually as possible, start to reach for the shotgun under the counter.

"Don't" grins Hanna.

I talk past Hanna towards the Bundys. "Hi Aamon. I think I know why you are here".

"Eightball gets something right for a change", snorts Aamon. "Too bad you didn't do ba etter job warning us about that avalanche".

"I told you not to take your expedition over that mountain pass. Wait one extra week, I said, or take the long way to the further pass, I said". I receive a glower in response.

I sigh. "No refunds, Aamon", "It's in the contract".

"Oh, we don't expect a refund, "Aamon actually looks a little sad. "But we got to do right by those that didn't come back, so..." he nods.

try to reach the shotgun, but Hanna puts a thumb in my eye and a finger in my ear. Blinded by tears, I hear a commotion of big bodies in a rush towards me. Someone is thumping on a drum. 


I wake up in a hospital bed. I moan for a little bit, shifting and stretching without really being quite awake. I'm sore, but not in pain. They must have doped me up.

My neighbor Aaron sits next to me leafing through a National Geographic. Seeing I'm awake, he starts in.

“You’re fucking up way too much Johnny! Getting stoned too often, man. You’re fucking up. I'm telling you!”

“Okay okay”. I stretch and shift and, realizing I am just sore, sit up. "They must gone easy on me". 

“Hey, yeah" Aaron eyes me coldly. "Hey, here’s a question for you. How do you feel?"

He doesn't wait for an answer.  "Sore?" he sneers, "A little sore. You know you should be mangled, you dumb fucker. Every one of your bones broken! What those goons did? That was gruesome.”

“You saw it?"

“The tail end. Who all do you think kept you alive? Camilla got me, but we would have heard anyway. Your place is trashed."

I rubbed my face. No bumps. No swelling. 

"Hey, here’s another question. The doc did a full body scan on you. Guess what?"

"What?" I got out of bed, moved my limbs experimentally.

"The x-ray of your skull? That titanium nail driven into your skull? It’s gone”.

(About a decade ago, I'd had a titanium nail driven into my skull by alien monsters).

“What do you mean gone? Like it got knocked out? They knocked it out?”

“No, stupid. Like it ain't there in your head anymore. That nail dissolved into you”. Aaron looked at me expectantly.

“Dissolved? Oh. Full body scan you said?" I frown in thought. 
"Is that why I have no broken bones?"

"Why those aliens picked you to augment and enhance is a mystery. You got it, ace. Some kind of fascial enhancements. Skeletal and muscular enhancements, too".

"I got superpowers?" 

“No, not superman. More like industrial strength human. Elephant skin and bones of, well, titanium. You don't appear to be any stronger, but I'll let someone else find that out"

"Well this is stupid! It fucking hurt! When they beat me? It fucking hurt a lot! Enough to make me pass out. What kind of a stupid superpower is that?_

"Yeah, Fucking Furry Octopussies, man! You're even more creepy! Classified suspect alien technology you sure as hell are now".

"What do mean?"

"I mean the Furries are here for you. And NATO".

Apparently, while my place was getting trashed and I was having the living shit beat out of me, a giant neon circus which is a Furry Octopoid space station appeared in orbit above Spiral City. 


The Furry Octopoids, otherwise known as Furries, Teuthids, Kraken, Cthulhunoids, Octopussies, etc. are a billion years ahead of us humans, and the known universe their realm. Or so they claim. I don't know how we could fact check that. I'm not even sure that giant furry octopus is their true and actual form. They could be drones for all I know, a chosen shape to interact with us. 


"The Teuthids say they want to see the hatchling, meaning you" a nameless sergeant is telling me, as we weave through Conex boxes and quonset huts towards the wormhole station at the center of the base. 

NATO has had an outpost on Alterra since the colony was first seeded, but they've never seen fit to trick it out any better. The base on Sessus, the other end of this base's wormhole, is much nicer, and more up-to-date. I suppose if you want a moon base on a desolate airless moon, you want it to be comfortable.

We get to the wormhole station, which is a big geodesic dome, once painted white. This was a bad color choice. Accumulated grime and detritus in the joints and on faces, looks cheesy.  We pass through a series of airlocks to get to the staging area. And there it is, my coffin. It's not a coffin. It's an airtight cylinder just large enough for one person. I fucking hate these coffins, but that's how individuals travel through wormholes. A guy in green fatigues helps me in, and then, after a few bumps and what feels like a ride though a vacuum tube, the lid of the coffin is opened by a set of taloned tentacles.

I'm greeted by thin sheets and sprays of expelled furry octopus snot. It's how they smile.


"You finally hatched!" hiss/spit/growls the krake that showered me with mucus. "How delightful! You're a little slow, a little retarded, but that's okay!"

The krake steers me away from the coffin with it's tentacles, little pin sharp talons digging into my skin, but not, I note, drawing blood like the last time I met one.

It snorts a little wad of mucus, right in my ear. "Oh, this is very good! We can begin the training immediately!"

"Training? Training for what?" I ask.

Another spray of snot. "Oh, so cute, even though you are hideously ugly with two legs! Hatchlings are always so cute! Otherwise we'd eat you! Training to rescue a lost colony, silly! You are going to be a hero!"

By this point, other krakes have arrived and are copiously coating me with snot as well.

"Do you guys have any wet wipes? Or towels?"

"Delightful! Yes! Terry cloth towels for the ugly two legs please! What do want us to call you?"

"John is fine".

"Johnny! Johnny! Hey Johnny! Johnny! Johnny! We have found one of your lost colonies! They are from Asia! Japan! Um, a 1976 colony? yes. One of the earliest. We are surprised by this. We did not think the Japanese would be so adventurous. So, still, we have found them! They are in big trouble!"

"What kind of trouble?"

"A space creature! It's a very bad one! Very big! Very mean! But you will rescue them while there is time! There's not much time! We can entangle them for maybe a week. No more! But you will be ready! You will see! Can you swallow air? Into your stomach? How loud can you belch?"


Three days later, doing nothing but practicing belching, hopping, squatting, and towards the last, wretching, the octopussies declared me ready.

I had asked exactly what kind of very big very bad space creature it was, how belching and wretching was going to be of use, and how I was going to be of help. They ignored all my questions. We poofed into existence over a single solitary planet next to an immense nebula almost as colorful and flamboyant as the teuthid station.

A swirling tentacular tip indicated the nebula. "That's where the creature is! It will come soon come It's here to lay eggs! You must go down to the planet and protect them. We will help!"


I am disoriented for a bit, dizzy, a little vertigo, things not quite in focus. I hear... air raid sirens. Strange. Yeah, blaring sirens. I look around and, hmm, rooftops. Rooftops of buildings. I must be way up someplace in a building. And everything is... black and white. No color. I'm a bit unsteady on my feet. I look down, and - 

What the fuck?

I've got clawed feet. Reptile feet. I look over my body, and I'm a lizard. And judging from the buildings around me, I'm a giant lizard. Maybe 160 feet tall, I'm guessing. 

"Johnny! Can you hear me? The monster is coming!"

"What? What the hell? Hey! What's going on? Did you slip me some LSD or something?'

“You are no hallucination. You are a daikaiju! A giant monster. The space creature that is plaguing these people is coming! You must destroy it!”

I looked behind me. There was a path of destruction leading back to a harbor.

“I didn’t do that!”

“No that was you. You were groggy, but that was you”.

“Why is everything in black and white?”

“You are a giant lizard!. They don't need color! Listen! The space creature is here to lay eggs. If the eggs hatch this planet will be eaten alive. You have to stop it!”

I start hearing a high pitched electric whine in the air. I know that sound. 

“Dude, am I fucking Godzilla?”

“Of course!”

"Wha? How?"

"It's coming! Get ready!"

If this is what I think it is, the space creature, the monster, I know it. It's called Mothra.

"Where? Where is the fucker?” I ask, just as it sails in and smacks me in the back of my head. I see stars.

"Ow! Fuck!'

Mothra turns in mid-air, and slams up against me, knocking to the ground. It’s hard carapace untouched, and now it starts digging at my belly with these nasty little razor sharp pincers, while beating me with its wings. Hyper hurricane winds are knocking buildings down around me.

"Ow! FUCK!" 

The pincers are digging in to my belly hide. I instinctively grab a wing by the root and twist. Mothra emits a loud screeching electronic tone which deafens me. It breaks free and wheels up into the air.

"Use your atomic vomit!"

"My what?"

Mothra turns again and 15,000 metric tons of space moth hits me square in the belly. I get slammed into a skyscraper, and then another behind, rubble and steel landing everywhere.

“Goddamn it! This fucking thing is beating the shit out of me!”

"Use your atomic vomit! Swallow air and belch and puke!"

“I - okay".

Just as I swallow air and start to belch, Mothra hits me in the belly again. I gag and cough. I almost choke on atomic vomit. 

"Dude, I got the hic- I got the hic- I got the hiccups!"

"Hold your breath, Johnny! HEY! BOO! Did that scare you, Johnny?"  

"I - " just then, I start hearing music, little tinny women's voices. "I hear singing. I hear singing in my head."

“Oh... SHIT! The Shobijin! They are pure fucking evil! Don't listen to them! They will try to hypnotize you. Get a song in your head! Green Acres! I Dream of Jeanie! Girl From Ipanema!”

"They're in my head! There’s two little Japanese fairy women singing at me in my head. Get out of my head! Jesus Christ they’re like twisted little kernels of evil energy!”

“That’s what I’m telling you! That's what they are! Twisted little kernel of evil energies. Mothra is their slave! Keep ‘em out of your head!”

I glance down, and somehow I spot. Two tiny little fairies.  "I see them! Should I stomp them?"

"No, they indestructible. Get Mothra!”

The pain in my head is excruciating. I wrack my brain for a song and finally pick a John Phillip Souza march. 

 “Good! Good!”

Holding my breath seems to have cured the hiccups, but Mothra bowls me over again. I recover, get on my feet, and, swallowing a big gulp of air, belch a huge atomic blast as it recedes. It singes its carapace a little, the wings smoking some, which I hope is good. I've got to crank the volume on the Souza march to cancel out the evil songs of the Shobijin.

Mothra turns again, and slams into me, but this time, I grab it, and twist a wing, and use my tail to deflect it in almost a judo move. My tail. Holy shit. My tail. I have a tail. I use my tail to whip around fast before Mothra can get up, blast it good. Again, a little smoldering, but really Mothra is unfazed. It takes off again for another pass.

“It's just bouncing off it like a garden hose!”

“Well yeah, it’s a giant space moth attracted to stars. It can fly next to stars and not get burned!"

Oh, Great! Mothra flits around the surface of stars, and thus invulnerable to my atomic vomit. This thing is going to win if I don't think of something. It has to have a weakness. Weak spots in the carapace.  “-here to lay eggs”, I remember.

“Hey what about the ovipositor? Is that protected?”

“Oh! Yes. Disgusting! Clever! That could work!”

I flail my tail. Judging from the surge of strength I feel, I bet I can lift myself with this tail. I crouch down, wait for the big giant moth to come at me. It swerves to pass by me, keeping its wings away out of my reach. I launch myself onto Mothra using my tail. I grab hard and hold on. Mothra continues flying through the air carrying me. I shift my hold and manage to clamber into a very undignified 69 position with Mother.

Hanging on with my back claws digging into abdomen, I scrabble at Mothra's ovipositor WA like a bear digging into a beehive.

Mothra gets distressed, trying to shake me off, and the melodies of black pain from the Shobijin are knifing me into my forebrain. 

I pry open the lips of her egg chamber and shoot down a giant projectile puke of atomic plasma vomit.

The atomic blast into Mothra’s egg chamber  jiffy-pops her carapace. Mothra's corpse makes a tremendous gash in the crust of the earth.

Wow, we’re done. The city erupts in celebration. Ships horns, car horns, trolly horns, bells, even the faint tinny roar of cheering humans.

“Well played. And just in time. The knot of entanglement is loosening. This region of the cosmos is lost to us once again. We have to go!"


I wake up in a hospital bed. Aaron is sitting to next me thumbing through a National Geographic.

"Oh, that was some fucking dream".

He puts the magazine down.

"They must have really knocked me around. I had a dream I was Godzilla, in a fight with Mothra!"

"That wasn't a dream. We watched you on TV. It was on all the channels. Hey, there's someone been waiting for you".

The door opened, and a gorgeous blonde stuck her head in the room. Johanna Jussinniemi.

"Hey hero!" She grinned, "You still want to go on a date with me?"

Friday, June 17, 2016

Don't Eat the Rich. Drug Test Them.

Statistics on drug abuse by income bracket are hard to find. Oh, the lower to mid-lower income brackets have quite a bit of data, but drug abuse data on people with incomes at or above the $150,000 level are shockingly absent.

"Insufficient data" say the studies. 

Criminalization of the unemployed, the working poor, and the poorly educated is a common trend, especially in states involving conservative control. But one thing we do know from statistical sampling is that employed Americans use alcohol and drugs at a far higher rate than the unemployed.

Probably because they have more disposable income. Duh. And the more expensive the drug, the less likely the poor, the poorly educated, and the unemployed are to use it.

A bill proposed by Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin aims to partially rectify that startling lack of data on drug abuse by the rich, by introducing a bill requiring them take a drug test if they have itemized deductions of more than $150,000.
 “The benefits we give to poor people are so limited compared to what we give to the top 1%,” she said. “It’s a drop in the bucket.” “We spend $81bn on everything – everything – that you could consider a poverty program,” she explained. But just by taxing capital gains at a lower rate than other income, a bit of the tax code far more likely to benefit the rich than the poor, “that’s a $93bn expenditure. Just capital gains,” she added. And though her bill wouldn’t have any effect on low- and middle-income Americans, clawing back more than $100,000 in deductions from even a handful of super-wealthy recreational drug users – who would be forced to pay for their own tests – could be a much more significant revenue-raiser than testing Tanf recipients.
While we are at it, (and I'm not the first to suggest this) if the politicians wish to continue to receive public assistance from the taxpayers, they should be required to be tested for drugs as well. I mean, do they really want to be serious about the War on Drugs or not?

You're telling me these three in the video are not drugs? Oh, yeah. Some kind of really good stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Not Quite One of the Doomed. Not Quite Yet.

Did I ever tell you I was in a shit storm?

Like a for-real-and-for-sure actual storm of shit? Like coated in sidewise spray of fine shit shit storm? Like heavy driving sheets of liquid shit driven through my clothes into every nook, every cranny, every fold, every pore of my body? Like being in a Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument of a shit storm, so that I am forever non-locally entangled with atomized shit particles no matter how far away in the universe I become separated from them?

Well, I was, and not surprisingly I was downwind of a shithole during the shit storm, so that explains that.

I'm not unique, I'll betcha. It doesn't take much to be in a shit storm nowadays, for that matter throughout recorded history and before. Ever since the domestication of animals, ever since man put stone upon stone and called himself civilized.

So, I was driving west on 198 heading towards Interstate 5 eventually to go to San Francisco. It was during a California monsoon,  and this instance was pretty much a tropical storm with heavy winds and leaden fiercely scudding clouds. At first it was just a misty kind of rain, but then it got heavy, and the wind is jostling and nudging my car between the lane lines, and then I noticed that it smelled like shit.

Being from Indiana, I immediately identified it as cow shit. Not pig shit, not chicken shit, not horse shit, all smells I am familiar with, but cow shit. And not dairy cow shit either, but feed lot shit. I'd smelled this kind of shit before driving through Amarillo, TX, which has a big feed lot. So I knew what I was driving through.

And wouldn't you know it. I had to stop to pee, and so I had to get out in it at a gas station, and when I did that is when the heavens opened up and pretty much covered me in the powerful deliquesced mélange of bovine fecality. I don't think fecality is a word but fuck it.

At the time I was disgusted but now, being pretty much folded into the peasant class, and almost one of the Doomed, this doesn't bother me all that much. I'm not quite a peasant, not quite. True, my skills are pretty much gone. I couldn't do a partial differential equation if my life depended on it. I couldn't code up an app under life-threatening conditions either. But the way I'm seeing things? All these technocratic elites that think they are indispensable are just one neural net project away from my situation.

I'm going through a little existential crisis right now. My art career - despite getting stuff in shows - is pretty much in the shitter, with lots of unwanted art rotting away in closets and storage rooms. The good thing about the art career gamble is I've developed some new skills, like welding and fabricating, which pretty much puts me as a sturdy yeoman in the peasant class. 

But classes and categories are fluid things, not static, not fixed and stationary, but dynamic and alive. Like swirling eddies in a shit storm, which brings us to the value of shit, and classes, and categories, and, yes, things in Washington DC. 

"Rome lived on its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo" - Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man
Mr. Reade was right and wrong about one thing. The dung was far more valuable than the proclamations of the Senate, and the mandates of Caesars.  

Dung, of course, is a powerful commodity. Not only just as fertilizer, but for the longest time the source of the dearest component of gun powder. Dung gives you salt peter. Salt peter gives you gun powder. And gun powder gives you one form of power. Not the only form mind you, but a very easily understandable and easily exercisable form.

But the exercise of power is an industry, just not a particularly beneficial industry for those not in power. The governing classes profit and maintain their positions - but only so long as things go well. Ah, but the minute shit hits the fan? Not so well, not so valuable a set of skills. Mendacity and venality can only work for you in an environment of luxurious plenty. Ask any parasite.

As a sturdy yeoman, I'm figure actually well placed if shit ever hits the fan. I got skills. I won't end up in the brothel, or not right away. Not like the governing elites, who are good at fawning, and posturing, and the types of criminality that DC is now famous for.

And so, to Trump. See? I'm tying it all together. Bullshit. Classes. Elites. What about Trump? In my view, Trump is being set up as a patsy. A willing patsy, who thinks he can turn the tables, but still a patsy of the Deep State.

Does this mean Trump is a buffoon? Well, yes, and no. He's not stupid. If Trump were as shallow, vain, vapid and inconsequential as he presents himself, Fred Trump would have smothered him with a pillow in his youth. No, Donald learned at Fred's knee, and knows exactly how to fuck people over. Trump is intimately familiar with the exercise of criminality that we have all come to expect from DC.

Which makes him a good candidate for public service in this, our current US of A. But it still means Trump is a patsy. If elected, Trump will be placed in the feedlot, be made to produce valuable dung, and when the appropriate time comes, be led to the slaughter house. Finally some egalitarianism.

When it's your turn in line for the stun hammer, maybe you'll be able to say Hi to the Donald!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Who Will Pay?

Universal Basic Income. Basically, if you are not aware of what UBI is, some certain amount of public funds would be distributed to everyone. So, say, $1000 a month is given to everyone.

The idea has been kicked around, in one form or another, for quite some time. Finland is considering it. The Swiss just rejected it.

Henry Orbit don't need no stinking UBI!
Some would have the UBI replace all current social safety nets, on the grounds that it eliminates a lot of bureaucracy.  (I don't think that would work entirely, as, for example, people with disabilities or mental issues would be better off with current services rather than cash). Others want the UBI tacked on to existing services.

Canada tried it, a small experiment in Manitoba called Mincome. It seemed to work out alright.

The big problem most people see is they assume UBI would turn recipients into lazy slackers and moochers. Presumably these people have been able to ignore that, though they may have never received explicit public assistance, their very existence has pretty much been subsidized through one government program or another (for example, defense spending).

The other objection is: who is gonna pay for it? This seems to me an objection worth exploring.

Consider: In the US of A, the worry is that automation is displacing jobs, with few or no jobs being created for those that disappear. Many feel that this is something to worry about decades from now, if ever, since supposedly new better quality jobs replace the shitty jobs that robots (or foriegn labor) take over. Well, not everyone can be a robot repairman like Henry Orbit.

Here is my gedanken.

Let's say it's not decades. And let's say it is not just low-skill jobs. Let's say that, given the fact AI seems to finally be growing into itself, all but around 1% of all jobs are gone in, let's say five years. Now, some jobs I'm assuming won't be replaced by automation in five years: strippers, prostitutes, etc. But all the jobs that you think wouldn't go away? They are all gone, replaced by robots that can do it faster, cheaper, smarter. That 1% of jobs remaining? Performed by centaurs: half human/half AI workers.

(AI doesn't mean smarter as in smarter than human, which are tolerable generalists. One thing we've noticed is most tasks don't require a lot of brain power to do. And it turns out that a remarkably small brain can do some rather ingenious specific tasks. Think crows. Think spiders. Think any animal with a brain smaller than yours that can kick your ass at whatever it is that animal is good at).

So, your job, whatever it is, artist, musician, CEO, surgeon, hedge fund manager, politician, has been replaced by some machine learning algorithm that magnificently grew into the task and does a much better job than the most accomplished human. Only the most menial or awkward or incredibly strange jobs remain, by virtue of humans being cheaper or irreplaceable (for the moment).

So, where does the public revenue come from? Currently, public revenues come mostly from income and payroll taxes. It's possible that corporations (the new people) could kick in more, but I wouldn't count on it. So, the revenue for UBI is coming from payroll and income tax. Let's break it down down more. Payroll tax accounts for about a third of all public revenue. And, in turn, usually people in the middle to bottom pay the lion's share of payroll taxes. The rich? Hardly any. And income taxes? The reverse (as the rich like to remind everyone). But payroll taxes are trending towards the chief revenue source.

Well, who cares who is paying what. Let's say that the 1% of jobs is fairly egalitarian and revenue, to keep things simple, is cut 1% across all income groups.

In 2015, total revenue was $6.7 trillion. In 2020, under the conditions of the gedanken basically been cut to 1% of that, or $67 billion. That's $216 per US citizen. I don't know how you are going to live off that. Actually, you can, but it means a lot of belt tightening. Some in the upper brackets will not be used to that. Hopefully, the've lots left over in their trust funds and hedge funds and properties so we don't here them whine too much, but the rest of us are just a little bit fucked.

Besides, who is buying all this shit that the robots are making?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Muhammad Ali

He wasn't bragging, was he? He was a pretty man, and I don't mean that in a faeggy way. I mean it in a human aesthetic way.

So, I think we need to name some stuff for Muhammad Ali.

He was a powerful, principled, and brave man, and so the things we name should reflect that. First thing I would do is rename a lot of stuff name for Ronald Reagan.

Saggy old bag and Muhammad Ali
So, for example, Reagan was a saggy old bag who never wore the pants in his family. Anything that has to do with strength, power, and force projection should not be named after a saggy old bag that never wore the pants.

USS Muhammad Ali (CVN-76)
Take, for example, the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Fuck that. Fuck Reagan. Recommission it as the USS Muhammad Ali (CVN-76), because it really does float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!

Also, change the Reagan Washington National Airport to the Muhammad Ali Washington National Airport as a reminder for everyone flying in to DC what this nation is all about, or supposed to be about.

While we are at it, how about we name the International Space Station for Muhammad Ali?

How about you tell me?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Illusion of Design

Given a philosophical choice between the systems of preformationism and epigenesis, I choose epigenesis every time. And the reason I do is because I have the entire larger universe empirically backing my choice, pretty much since the beginning of time itself.

Which is to say, practically everything in the Made World that is of good design... was not designed.

Inventions rarely have actual inventors, but evolve out of a flock of outcomes and developments that are in rapid florescence. The Internet was not designed. The mobile computer market was not designed. The telecomm, media, oil, coal, steamship, rail, road services were not designed. Social safety nets were not designed.

They all evolved from prior ratcheted systems that unfolded on their own, from the bottom up.

Keep in mind that the term evolve is originally from the Latin e- (out of ) volvere (to roll). The idea is to unfold, to unroll, like a scroll, or a leaf, or a flower.

Anyone who has been involved in design will tell you that 90% of anything designed (things and systems, networks, and institutions) are shit.

The ones that are not shit are designed taking advantage of, and from, an already evolved system.

If you think that our current system as a representative republic sucks? Blame James Madison, and the other Founding Fathers, because it was designed. This is not to denigrate Madison, who came up with a slick as snot design, based upon his own observations of the failures of past republics.

His answer to the problems of factionalism and the dreaded mob rule of direct democracy (knowing that the more local the control, the worse the dictatorship) was to borrow a Copernican system of satellite states revolving about a strong federal sun.

That system lasted all of four score and seven years.  The Madisonian solar system turned in the Lincolnian system - tweaked by turning up the dial of solar gravity and reigning in the wild horse packs of the states. In a classic arms race, the states, in turn, became loose agglomerations of regional orbiting worlds. Planets and moons, Trojan asteroid groups, if you will. And today, for example, we have the moon states of the southeast and the mid-atlantic orbiting about the Jupiter of Virginia. We have the southwest and northwest reluctantly in tow behind California. Regionalism is the response to a stronger federal sun.

So, evolved, in some sense, but still within the parameters of the designed Constitution. And the main purpose of the Constitution is to make it as hard as possible to govern. As a result, is it any wonder that things suck so badly, because everything takes forever to get done.

Is it any wonder that the two worst people in the world for the position of President of the United States of America have been given the presumptive nomination?

One rather wishes for demarchy, but that, too, if you are not careful, is a designed system...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Jellied And Tentacular Future

Sea lice. Fucking sea lice.

There's an invasion of sea lice going on the Gulf coast beaches right now. Sea lice, of course, are not lice, but baby jellyfish. Currently, if you haven't paying attention, fishes are going away, and jellies and other primitive things are thriving. Want to guess why? Well, a combination of things, overfishing, pollution, global warming.

I know there are primitive types out there who don't believe in global warming, and it is interesting that they couch their statements in terms of belief. Well, folks, it's fucking real, anthropogenic global warming is fucking real, and it is killing the oceans. The oceans are dying.

Is that hyperbole? Of course it is.

The oceans are not dying.

The oceans, instead, are turning into something that we humans will not like, and will have a hard time living next to and deriving a living from. The oceans are increasingly populated by things, slimy, gross, disgusting, inedible things that are perfectly happy living in fucked up, sweltry, oxygen-deprived cesspool conditions. We are driving the oceans back to a pre-oxygen sewer conditions not unlike the upper Hadean.
These isopods are fucking creepy as well

Things like purple bacteria, jellyfish, slime molds, parasites of every stripe and flavor, and they are ready to take over, and all those lovely silver fish and corals and porpoises and whales, and all the things that are delicious to eat will be gone.

And it's our fault.

Good thing is, believe it or not, it's still not too late. But if is too late, go and watch Soylent Green, because so far we are right on schedule for that movie to come to pass.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kids, learn to code RNA. You're Welcome.

Maybe about a decade ago, a friend of mine had a little kitten named Olive. I was over at their house one summer day, drinking a glass of ice water filled with that crushed ice like you get in a Slurpee.

The kitten got interested in my water, so I tipped the glass and let her have a few licks. She went nuts. She stuck her little head in my glass and greedily lapped at the ice water. I took a swig, and it jumped up on me and tried to get more. That is the power of ice water. The sweet cold taste of clear mountain water off a glacier. Unbelievable. No wonder it was a luxury in Roman times. They'd cart the ice down from the mountains, packed in straw, and store it in rock tunnels. And the Romans would enjoy ice water, same as us. Except, of course, we didn't have to worry about diphtheria and typhoid fever.

So this morning, I go to one of those old fashioned drinking fountains, the Oasis brand. The ones that have the Greek-letter-looking EBCD on the handle. Since I was dehydrated from the night, and had biked into work, the water - ice cold - was beyond refreshing. It was indescribably good, and I understood why that little kitten had so greedily lapped it up.

What a luxury that is! Clean cold water. Jesus we don't have any conception of just how amazing it is until, well, after the Apocalypse, I suppose.

I'll miss coffee as well. And ice cream.

But that's not what I to talk about.  So, I'm thinking lately about neural nets, and how basically everyone is going neural net/machine learning crazy lately. As if it were finally an appreciated luxury like ice water.

Well, it's nothing of the kind. It's true that the current versions are impressive, but that's really more due to advances in hardware and sheer processing power than to any game-changing software advances. Like for example, any of coding expertise, of which there is hardly any. I mean, perceptrons were doing symbolic logic in the 1940s. ANDs, ORs and NOTs had all been successfully  implemented in Hebbian networks. The XOR (of which computer scientists said neural nets couldn't do, and therefore neural nets couldn't be good computers) was figured out in 1946. Here's how you do it:

But we don't care because we don't really want to build computers. We know how to build computers. We have had computers since at least 500BCE and probably long before.

We want to build electronic brains. And we do it by (primitive aping, still) reverse engineering real brains. The deep learning networks we have, impressive as they be in performance, are woefully sparse and scarecrow stiff in comparison to real brains. Neurons do amazing calculations inside themselves, chemicals and hormones flood the network with broadcast signals, not to mention the narrow cast signals we ape with these weighted links in nets are just so fucking paltry and primitive compared to the symphonic splendor of even worm brains.

So, when all those experts tell the kids that it is important to learn to code, all I can think of is that it is rather like telling kids in the 60s that it is important to learn Morse code. Because, you know, telecommunications! Satellites! All those satellites are gonna be beep beep booping at each other, so you better know all about it, kids!

But fact of the matter is the new model to go by is the neural net. Everything can be a neural net. Shipping networks, cars, anthills, beehives, classrooms, you name it. And telling people they can by with a little IF THEN ELSE is quite frankly a little dishonest. It's getting their hopes up, when they lose that make-work factory job, they'll earn big bucks as coders! Well, sorry, but the code doesn't need your stupid help. All it needs from you is what you want it to do.

Is there one place where learning to code might come in handy? Yeah, biology, but you gotta be smart to that. So, I guess you all better hope that the basic living income comes to pass...

Oh, yeah, and you should probably kill your boss while you are at it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Creepsicles, revisited

There is a bowl out in the hall at the college that used to contain fake ceramic fruit. Those fruits have all been stolen. I decided to fill the bowl again. Creepsicles, cast plastic things I made once upon a time, were taking up space.

So, I spray-painted them and glued them into the bowl.

Here's what they look like:

Here they are in the bowl: